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Ars Nova: Seventh Hell La Venus Endormie

The Japanese quartet released their debut album in 1992 and have seven studio albums to their credit with their latest Seventh Hell hitting the shelves, a record over two years in the making. Band members include Keiko Kumagai (keyboards), Satoshi Handa (guitars), Panky (bass) and Hazime (drums). Making guest appearances are Age of Nemesis guitarist Zoltan Fabian and Dutch keyboardist Robby Valentine. In case you are not familiar with Ars Nova, they play a style of bombastic, in your face progressive rock that really cooks. Their sound is heavily influenced by the seventies, in particular their use of vintage keyboard sounds. And let me tell you, the keyboards come at you from all directions, swirling here and dancing there. It would be an understatement to say this is heavily orchestrated music. It will hit you in the face and knock you down if you are not careful.

Complex arrangements and virtuoso musicianship does not always necessitate a great listen and it has been stated the band has plenty of style and little substance since the over the top playing may be considered overly pretentious by some. I have never penalized a band for virtuoso playing and I am not going to start now. Besides, the band is able to slow things down occasionally reducing the bombast and there are some pretty melodies scattered throughout these five songs.

"Seventh Hell" is the first song and it is a sign of what is to come with dramatic orchestrations and a frenetic pace that rarely lets up. Be prepared to fasten your seat belt when listening to this one! So what if its over the top, its still oh so enjoyable to listen to. "La Venus Endormie" continues in a similar vein with crunchy guitars and a variety of keyboards, but this time there are female vocals added to the mix. The virtuosic acoustic guitar work is beautifully complex. The album's epic is the seventeen minute "Salvador Syndrome" where flamenco style acoustic guitar, operatic vocals, moody atmospherics and a circus-style section all help to make for an absorbing listen. Loud and heavy, light and soft, this song is a satisfying ending to a very strong album.

To recap, if you enjoy the bombastic side of progressive rock you need to have this CD in your collection. Let the pomposity begin!

Track Listing:
1. Seventh Hell
2. La Venus Endormie
3. Cazadora de Astros
4. Voice of Wind
5. Salvador Syndrome

Added: December 6th 2009
Reviewer: Jon Neudorf
Related Link: Band's Official Site
Hits: 4149
Language: english

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